Off-screen can be used to describe events in a movie or tv show. For example,

"Harry's father dies off-screen"

What term or phrase can I use if I'm talking about events in a book?

"Harry's father dies ----"

Same question for on-screen.

  • Do you refer to the meaning in private life? – user66974 Mar 30 '15 at 7:16
  • @Josh61: No. I'm talking about something like off-page. When the event doesn't take place before the reader but is established through devices like characters conversing about it. – Tushar Raj Mar 30 '15 at 7:18
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    I'd just use with offscreen or offstage. It's a metaphor, but the meaning is obvious and I don't see any better alternatives. – Peter Shor Mar 30 '15 at 12:52
  • @PeterShor: The meaning is obvious indeed, but without context, readers may assume I'm talking about the movie version rather than the book version (for properties that have both). – Tushar Raj Mar 30 '15 at 12:54
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because April Fools. – tchrist Apr 1 '15 at 21:35

Before we had the (silver) screen, we had a stage.

Something that was not visible to the audience happened offstage, which freedictionary describes as:

adj. 1. Situated or taking place in the area of a stage that is invisible to the audience.
adv. 2.b. Behind the scenes; not visible to the public: The meetings between the leaders took place offstage.

I see no problem applying this to a book, the stage idiom being quite commonly understood and quite adaptable (offstage can also refer to non-theater settings, meaning in private, as opposed to the part of one's life that takes place “in the spotlights”.)

  • IMO, The usage of offstage today pertains more to sense 2 you described above. As in, 'an actor known offstage by another name.' – Tushar Raj Mar 30 '15 at 7:48
  • @Tushar: that may be because in main-stream media, theater is not the most common subject. If you read about theater, offstage is commonly used, e.g. here or here. See also Jon Hanna's answer to this ELU question. — I read that sense 2 as applying to theater, by the way :) – oerkelens Mar 30 '15 at 8:35

That's a good question, and one for which I've never heard the answer (at least that I can recall). You could perhaps describe this as events occurring "outside the narrative or discourse."


Harry's father dies in a /sidestory/back scene/, off the main narrative /flow/.

Harry's father dies in a /backstory/back scene/, off the main narrative flow.*

where backstory

Also, one could consider

off-camera, just as good as the "off-stage" mentioned by others



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    Dying in a backstory (or sidestory, whatever that is) isn't the same as dying off-screen. 'Off the main narrative' is closer, but it doesn't appear to be a widely used phrase. Plus, it's a mouthful. – Tushar Raj Mar 30 '15 at 11:41
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    @Tushar: One could consider off-camera, just as good as the "off-stage" mentioned by others, or off-page. – Marius Hancu Mar 30 '15 at 14:40

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